Bon Dia from Barcelona (And My Initial Thoughts on AA International Business Class Service)

by on March 10, 2011 · 13 comments

in American

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As many of you know, I am in Spain for the next couple days basking in the sun and taking in my fair share of jamon serrano and vino. I flew American last night on their 757 in their new business class seat and after my hugely disappointing first class flight on their 777 in January, I have to say my, expectations were low.

So were they met? Basically. It was an overall enjoyable flight: it left on time and arrived early, the food was decent (better than First class fare), in-flight entertainment was awesome (more on that later), standard headphones were Bose QC15,  and the seat was comfortable enough.

The bad? Service was lackluster at best. I honestly don’t think our flight attendants smiled once. It took about 10 minutes for someone to acknowledge us after we boarded and I was awoken abruptly from my Lunesta-enhanced bliss, by someone snatching my Bose QC15 headphones that were plugged into my iPhone. In their defense, they are the same ones they give out to business class, but they should have been more tactful about it. There were still 40 minutes left in the flight, so I don’t know why they are always in such a panic to get them collected (this same phenomenon occurred last time as well).

What was even more disapointing was the Admirals Club lounge. I’ve been meaning to whine more about these clubs – when I was taking a business class redeye back from San Francisco a couple weeks ago, they didn’t even give me free wifi. Apparently you have to be a paying member, which is really stingy to me. Someone paying thousands (granted I used miles, but that’s besides the point ;-)) to fly business or first class has to pay to use wifi in the lounge? Also, they were hawking potato chips at $2 a bag. Seriously?

Well, the JFK Admirals Club wasn’t much better. Granted, it’s a beautiful club (I went to the one near gate 45), but they were equally as stingy yet again. At least this time when I begged for a free wifi code, the agent acquiesced, though I think that had more to do with the fact that I was flying international business class. To my surprise/delight/horror, she also gave me a single drink coupon. While I appreciated the gesture, it brought to my attention that drinks weren’t free.

Seriously? Maybe I’m spoiled by Delta, the alcoholics airline of choice, but I think a cash bar at an international premium class lounge is just tacky.

Anyway, I better stop my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged induced rant before I convince you all that I’m a high-maintenance traveler. It’s my first time in Barcelona and it’s gorgeous so I need to get off the computer and go explore the city. I’m staying at Le Meridien on La Rambla and they let me check-in 4 hours early and upgraded me to a Junior Suite, which is really nice (pics to come when I have time). The hotel GM is sponsoring a free paella tasting event for Starwood Preferred Guest elite members, so I am going to try to stop by that. Overall, this star treatment solidifies why I choose to build elite status – it really makes travel so much more enjoyable.

If you have any tips/recommendations for Barcelona, feel free to comment below or email me. We are only here for one night before going to Madrid for the weekend and I don’t yet have dinner plans. So save me a trip to the concierge and recommend away!

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  • JohnnieD

    Please give as much info as you can.. we are going there in 6 weeks…Do you have to be Platinum for the tasting or can a lowly Gold like myself be able to partake……………

  • Diana

    Cerverceria Catalana! I just got back from BCN/MAD last week on the AA deal too.

  • Mike

    Was on the BCN bandwagon as well! Came back 2 weeks ago and had an absolutely amazing time! Highly recommend El Glop for authentic Catalan cusine. We also had amazing tapas at Cafe Delfin.

    Tip: Make sure that you take that afternoon siesta, (everything was shutdown from 1-5pm) so that you feel refreshed when you start the nightlife at 2am!

  • mark

    I don’t think you are high maintenance. I just think you are “lucky” to be going on such a great trip. Enjoy!!

    (You should write a note to AA about the Club. You make very valid points. No free wifi and one drink ticket? That is so tacky.)

  • Nelson

    Is it possible we were on the same flight? AA on JFK to BCN at 8:30 on 3/8? Yeah, it was my first time in the JFK Admirals lounge and I was very disappointed with having to pay for wifi (I used my Amex Platinum to get access), as well as the boring food layout.

    I took in Monserat today, which takes a little time. Awesome place, but not so much if you’re on a tight schedule.

  • The Points Guy

    @JohnnieD- We are only here for 30 hours, but will do my best. I can tell you know you will like this hotel. On the SPG Floor (2) they have a stand with apples, free bottled water, Vanity Fair, Newspapers, etc. They really seem to go out of their way to make SPG guests happy.

    @Mike- I just woke up from quite possibly the best siesta I’ve ever had. I was dragging!

    @Mark- thanks. AA seems to have a culture of cutting corners- even for premium passengers. One bottle of water per person in international first class? Crazy. But I will take your advice and write just so they know people are watching ;-)

    @ Nelson- I actually flew JFK-MAD. The Barcelona addition was a last minute idea. I wish I would have done JFK-BCN in hindsight because we connected to a Spanair flight which meant connecting a mile away to Terminal 2 and it essentially tacked on an extra 5 hours to the journey. Oh well, still can’t complain for a $250 roundtrip :-)

  • Jessica

    Barcelona is one of my favorite cities. There is a nice seafood restaurant by the aquarium (at the very edge of the shopping center). Order shrimp (biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen in my life). If you can, go to Parc Guell – its well worth the uphill hike.
    In Madrid, I recommend taking a day trip to Seville or Segovia and also Parque del Retiro in Madrid (its huge).

  • ann

    If you have the time go to the Miro museum. It’s amazing both inside and the sculptures outside. You can take a public bus or cabs less than $10 on Montjuiic if I remember right. Has a great view of the city.

  • Richard

    I think you’re being a little unfair on the Admirals Club. First of all, its not the “international premium class lounge”. That would be the Flagship Lounge, which F/Emerald passengers can access, which does indeed have nicer alcohol and decent food. Second, while it is a cash bar for premium liquor, low-end liquors are complimentary now. And while they may have only given you one drink ticket on entry (which can be used for the premium liquors), they would have given you another if you went back and asked.

    Regardless, I agree completely on the WiFi point…

  • Pingback: Le Meridien Barcelona and Commerc 24 Review | The Points Guy()

  • Tom

    Thanks for the information and reviews. Aren’t the well drinks at the Admirals Club complementary now. Same as Delta and Continental.

  • The Points Guy

    Tom- I was told my beer would be $6.50 if I didn’t have the coupon. I didn’t ask about well- that could be the case.

  • Elijah N.

    Easter Egg! : )

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